Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tick Tock - Your Body Clock

By Paul Puckridge

Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Regardless of whether you wake up early or stay up late, these patterns of waking up and sleeping are governed by your personal internal body clock; your Circadian Rhythm. What is a Circadian Rhythm? The Latin terms 'circa' and 'diem' is literally translated to mean 'around a day'. Studies have shown that humans have a Circadian Rhythm of roughly 24 hours.

Your Circadian cycles affect your biochemical, physiological and behavioural processes. Throughout each period of day and night (ie. a 24 hour cycle), your body temperature, hormone secretion levels, bowel movements, coordination and levels of alertness are all affected by your Circadian Rhythms. By better understanding these daily rhythms and using them to your advantage, you can get more done and feel better in the process. On the following page are some useful strategies for gaining a better understanding of these daily energy patterns and for using your daily Circadian Rhythms to your advantage.

1. Keep a Personal Body Clock Journal

If you aren't sure of your own Circadian Rhythm, keep a journal noting the times of the day when you feel most energetic, calm, stressed, productive or simply tired.
Do this for 7 days. Look for obvious trends or habits that point out whether you may be a 'night owl' or a 'morning lark'.

There's not much point trying to match your lifestyle and working life to an energy pattern that is contrary.

2. Use Your natural energy

Someone who loves staying up until the wee hours may be well suited to doing their creative work in the evening. A morning person is much better adapted getting up early and doing their creative work.

At work, if you can concentrate better on big tasks early in the morning, assign them to this time. Similarly, if mornings are a bit of a chore, why not leave the important work for later in the day. Perhaps it sounds radical, but isn't that the main point of being productive and effective?

3. The Spanish are right!

Siesta! We'd all love to have a siesta but for most of us it isn't always possible to go home for a few hours and come back later. Just remember that 1pm to 3pm is usually the most challenging time to keep focused. Go easy on the heavy food at lunch time and, if you can, find a patch of grass and have a rest over lunch. Just closing your eyes and relaxing for 10 minutes can do your mind and your body a world of good.

4. Get more natural light

The majority of people who work indoors are familiar with the fluorescent glow of artificial lighting. Recent research has shown that current levels of office lighting do not replicate daylight and as such can affect levels of melatonin production in our bodies. It's melatonin (or the lack of it) that can disrupt our wake and sleep cycle.

One idea is to get out into the sun and absorb some natural sunshine each day, rather than sitting in a stuffy office.